"Fred's Epistle to the Ukrainians."
"I am the Lord, I change not" Malachi 3:6
It has been suggested that the Old Testament describes God as being very austere. Biblical incidents such as the universal flood, the fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, the total slaughter of the Canaanites, etc., led some to believe God is quite harsh. By contrast, the New Testament portrays Him radically changed to a beneficent deity. He loves little children, feeds hungry thousands, heals the sick, forgives the sinful, etc., -- intimating, God is now more mellow and kinder. Can this be the same God as the one in the Old Testament?
What is God really like? Has He changed? Has He become a softer, easier God who lets us get away with misbehavior, and winks at our transgressions? Has He changed from the angry God who slew two of Aaron's sons when they brought "strange fire" into the Tabernacle (Lev. 10:1)? Actually, it is a gross misconception to think God has changed. Such a serious error could get people into real trouble. The person, character, and everything about God is the same, both in Old and New Testament times. Neither time nor ages have had any changing effect on Him. He remains the same forever. We can depend on that. God himself declared, "I am the Lord, I change not" (Mal. 3:6).
Apostle James wrote: "God above...created all heaven's lights, -- unlike them, He never changes or casts shifting shadows" (1:17 NLT). The Psalmist wrote:"The earth, and the heavens...they shall perish but Thou shalt endure...Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end" (Ps. 102:25-28). Hebrews 13:8 tells us, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
During Old Testament times God had to deal with an extremely sinful and rebellious people. By giving them His Commandments He directed them to the right path. He urged them to avoid deadly pitfalls, and on many occasions taught them how to live the good life.. As Creator, He had every right to insist that they live according to His holy precepts. "Be ye holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 20:7). But the majority continued to resist Him.
God is holy and He hates sin --because it systematically destroys, leads to death, and eternally separates from God. To curb this deadly cancer, He punishes disobedience (Pr.1:24-28). However, God first gives opportunity for repentance. He even pleads with the sinner to turn from evil and be reconciled to Him. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isa.1:18; Ezek 18:31,32).
Throughout the years, God patiently manifested His love, His power, and all of His kindly attributes. But mankind's persistent rebellion, forced Him to take severe steps of discipline and judgment. Patiently, He tried to show them who He was, and to teach them how to receive His benefits. From Adam's day and throughout Old Testament times, God generously promised a Redeemer who would save people from their sin. But when He came, they "received Him not" (Jn.1:11), for they "loved darkness more than light." Such continuous rebellion ultimately lead to God's judgment.
The New Testament tells us, "Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. But now in these final days, he has spoken to us through His Son...The Son reflects God's own glory, and everything about Him represents God exactly" (Heb.1:1-3 NLT).
Jesus came to make things clearer about God's love and grace. But at the same time, He also reminds us of God's displeasure with sin and rebellion. Take note, that the loving Jesus did not hesitate to lash out against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, or rebuke them for the desecration of God's temple. He made it clear, that there is a hell prepared for the devil and his angels, and urgently warned people, lest they should also fall into it.
God did not change. To think we can get away with sin, or that God winks at our misbehaviors, is a serious error. Unrepented sin will be punished. But those who repent and turn from evil, shall receive forgiveness. His love and mercy is still extended to all. He readily and lovingly responds to the penitent, but a continuance in sin and a refusal to heed to His loving call will surely lead such a person to judgment. God"...shall reward every man according to his works" -- "whether it be good or bad" (Mat. 16:27; 2 Cor. 5:10).
What should our attitude be toward God?
1. Honor Him for Who He is. Recognize, that "God is not a man, that He should lie" (Num.23:19). "Fear God"(Eccl.12:13). He is true to His word, both in His promises and His warnings. "My word shall not pass away" (Mt. 24:35).
2. Love Him. "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart...thy soul, and...mind" (Mt. 22:37). He must be first in our lives.
3. Obey His precepts, conform to His will. "To obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Sam.15:22). Obedience is the divine key to God's blessings.
4. Follow Him, for He is the "Good Shepherd" (Jn. 10:14; Ps.23). He can be trusted. He is the "way, the truth and the life." He still rescues, saves, forgives, heals, comforts and preserves His sheep. It pays to follow Him.
Blessings and bountiful rewards await the faithful. He is loving and kind, and "Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (2 Pet. 3:9). But those who continue to resist Him will meet divine judgment. You can depend on that. God is loving, but He is also just. He has not changed.